From being one of a handful wine estates using social media two years ago, Backsberg is now one of about 300 (around 50 %) of wine estates who do so. This places pressure on all wine estates to constantly reevaluate their social media strategy, to remain ahead as well as relevant to one’s followers and friends, said Simon Back, Marketing Manager of Backsberg.
The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club last night met at Rainbow Experience in Mandela Rhodes Place, which will be the venue for the Cape Town Show supper club, which opens on 5 November as a musical and food showcase, including Cape Jazz, Goemma, Kaapse Klopse, Township jive, Kwela and Mpantsula on the music side. The bloggers attending were spoilt with a taste of the menu that will be served with the Show: African Hummus and Cape Snoek pate served with Lavache as starters; Lentil cottage pie, Dukkah Crusted Beef fillet and traditional Cape chicken curry as main courses; and desserts were Malay koeksisters, Dutch melktert and a traditional chocolate brownie.
Simon first became interested in social media when he read the Stormhoek case study initiated by marketer Chris Rawlinson, the wine having been marketed purely by means of blogging, long before most winemakers had even heard the word. From early beginnings Simon’s blog readers grew to include regular readers. He switched from Blogger to WordPress, finding it driving more traffic to the Backsberg website. As the blog readership grew, Simon realised that he had to make a commitment to write regularly, and he advised new bloggers to not commit to blogging if they cannot keep up with the regular commitment, and to rather Tweet or Facebook. Simon had to find his focus in writing the Backsberg blog, choosing specifically to write about his family farm Backsberg, and wine in general in South Africa. Twitter and Facebook have grown tremendously in importance, and Simon says that the 900 or so Facebook friends are worth more to him than hitting thousands of ‘uncommited’ readers via an advertisement. Simon writes from a personal Twitter account (@SimonBack) and a colleague writes from the @Backsberg Twitter account, to keep content fresh and unduplicated. A monthly newsletter is sent to members of the Backsberg Wine Club, and the Facebook and Twitter presence of Backsberg is aimed at increasing the number of members. Simon shared with the bloggers that he was shocked to hear recently that newsletters are dead as a form of communication, because they contain too much information, and do not appeal to readers whose attention span is reducing due to information overload. Simon foresees an application like 4Square becoming more important, with incentives being offered linked to one’s brand. Simon has been recognised as one of the most social media savvy wine marketers, and represented South Africa at a Prowein conference in Germany on social media earlier this year.
Backsberg is synonymous with environmental care and reducing its carbon footprint. Backsberg was the third carbon neutral wine estate in the world, and the first in South Africa, a pioneer in this important eco-orientated wine production. It is the first South African wine company to bottle its wines in plastic bottles under the Tread Lightly brand, a further environmental-concern action by Backsberg. The Food and Wine Bloggers were spoilt with Backsberg Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and the Merlot. Simon’s talk was so successful, various aspects of it having been tweeted by the Food & Wine Bloggers during the meeting, that “Simon Back” became a “breaking” trending topic about three hours after the meeting.
Tom Robbins only recently started his eatcapetown Blog, focusing purely on Restaurant Reviews. He has been a journalist at Business Report, and has written about most things other than food in this capacity. He is a freelance journalist writer and “hobby” reviewer, he says. He is interested in the anthropology of food, and regularly reads international restaurant reviewers’ reviews. His policy is to be fair and objective, and he likes to tell the story, making his reviews longer. He likes to discuss the type of clients he sees in the restaurant, its interior and exterior look, including the type of cars parked outside, and does not focus on the food alone.
Tom calls for independence from bloggers, and asks that they declare the free meals and wines reviewed. Tom feels that free gifts make one loose objectivity. Yet, he says, one can argue that an invitation may give one access to a chef, and a chat to him/her may give one interesting insights into the restaurant and its food, which could add to one’s review. He prefers anonymity, and therefore uses an illustration of himself on his blog so that he is not recognised when he enters a restaurant. He does not ask many questions, hoping to experience as average a meal as possible. Tom quoted the example of Jancis Robinson, who refers to www.wine-searcher.com in her reviews, and discloses in them that she receives a fee for her referrals. Guaranteeing editorial coverage for advertising placed in a wine magazine, for example, has no credibility for the reader, when they spot the advertisement a few pages along. “I believe disclosure indicates respect for readers” he said. Disclosure of freebies is currently being debated in the USA and is likely to be legislated. It is already included the American Bloggers’ code of conduct. A question from a blogger about why chefs ands restaurants take reviews so badly was debated, and it was felt that chefs are known to have enormous egos, and that they are ecstatic when the review is good, and tend to ban patrons when it is critical. Tom said this is ‘human nature’, and probably most people would react this way.
The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines. Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others. Each of the two bloggers talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging. The Club gives fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others. Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers. The Club meetings are informal and fun.
The next meeting of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club is on Wednesday 24 November, from 6 – 8 pm, at the Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street. Food blogger Mariska Hendricks from The Creative Pot Blog and Emile Joubert from the Wine Goggle Blog will be â€˜paired’. Contact Chris at email@example.com to book.